Keep those Presents from Stealing your Identity

With the gift giving holidays behind us and New Year's coming up, it's tempting to let your guard down and relax for the last few days of 2015. But before you can do that, you've got a few precautions to take.

If you're one of the millions of Americans who bought new computers or devices this holiday season, you've got to ensure that those purchases aren't putting your identity at risk. Ideally, when you purchased your new desktop or laptop, you also picked up some antivirus software as you headed to the register. If your purchases involved mobile devices, those aren't immune to malicious software, and you'll need to protect those with apps or downloads as well. Now is also a great time to adjust your tech's settings to alert you every time a security update becomes available.

If your new purchase connects to the Internet--and there's an excellent chance it does--you need to make sure your wifi connection is secured. Without a password on your wifi, other people can access your connection and use it for illegal activities. There's also the potential that they can see your activity online. While you're using these devices, there are some good safety habits you need to make into permanent behaviors. The first is to always use strong, unique passwords. That means your password contains at least eight characters, and that it includes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, some numbers, and a symbol or two. You also need to avoid the temptation to use that same password on multiple accounts.

The other good habit is to keep yourself safe from scams. The best ways to do this is to be very watchful for the types of emails and social media messages you receive. If it contains a link you were not expecting, don't click it, even if it appears to come from someone you know as their email could have been hacked. Opening strange links or attachments can download malicious software like viruses to your computer.

Finally, if these devices were purchased for children or teens, you've got to make sure they're safe. And while "spying" apps and strong parental locks can give you some peace of mind, they're absolutely no substitute for having serious, ongoing, open communication about right and wrong internet behaviors. Teach your kids about avoiding internet predators and cyberbullies, and make sure all of you are practicing safe data security.

 

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